The Xperia S boasts a 12 megapixel camera, complete with a single LED light. Much like previous Xperia phones, the S uses a backlit Exmor R sensor for improved low-light performance.
The camera controls on the Xperia S are available on two taskbars on either side of the viewfinder. The left one holds four shortcuts to various settings, while the right one shows the still/video toggle, the virtual shutter and a thumbnail of the last photo taken.
The menu key brings up two pages of extra settings - scenes, resolution, smile detection, geotagging, image stabilization and focus mode and others. You can customize three of the shortcuts on the left (the shooting mode shortcut is fixed).
There're five capture modes to choose from: Normal, Scene recognition, Sweep Panorama, Sweep Multi Angle and 3D Sweep Panorama. In Normal, you pick the Scene settings manually or you can enable Scene recognition and let the Xperia S take a guess (it's fairly good at it).
The 3D Sweep Panorama is business as usual - you press the shutter key and sweep the phone from left to right and you get a panoramic photo in the end that can be viewed in 2D or 3D (on a compatible TV).
The Sweep Multi Angle was much more impressive - you take a photo in the exact same way, but the result is very different. It produces something like a lenticular card.
Tilting the phone left and right lets you look at the object from different sides. A shot of a moving object looks like an animated GIF or creates interesting distortions, which can be pretty funny too.
There are some distortions visible even with a static scene, but it's still one of the coolest camera features we've seen in a while. Photos taken in Sweep Multi Angle mode are handled by a separate app called 3D album, and not listed in the regular gallery. And just to make it clear again - the Xperia S screen is not a 3D one.
The Xperia S features a Quick launch option, which lets you customize the phone's behavior upon a press of the camera key when the phone is locked. The default option is Launch and capture - it unlocks the phone, starts the camera and instantly snaps a photo.
It's hard to frame the shot right, but you can quickly take another photo, as the camera reloads quite fast. There's an option that just unlocks the phone and starts the camera, if that's what you prefer, or you can disable the feature completely.
We won't be delving into image quality, we'll leave that for a complete review. You can check out camera samples from an impromptu shootout between the Xperia S and the Nokia N8.
Here are four samples shot with the Nokia N8. Don't forget that you can open two photos at once and click to lock a particular part of shot (so that it doesn't move or zoom out when you move your mouse), which makes it easier to compare the images.
The Sony Xperia S captures 1080p video at 30 fps and does a very good job of it. The camcorder has similar settings to the still camera, including focus mode, metering, exposure value, image stabilization and so on. The layout of the shortcuts can be customized here too.
The Xperia S camcorder features continuous autofocus. It may take a few seconds to refocus after you re-frame but that's better than repeating attempts to lock focus that may ruin a video.
Videos are stored in MP4 format (14Mbps bitrate) and the frame rate nails the 30fps mark. The Xperia S videos come with stereo sound recorded at 128Kbps bitrate and 48kHz sampling.
Check out the 720p samples that we captured with the Xperia S:
If you want to look closer at the video quality, you can download this untouched sample 1080p@30fps, taken straight off the device.